The scores have been posted, the final results tallied and medals awarded: WCBU2011 ended on a high note in the Discraft Beach Arena in front of thousands of players and curious onlookers witnessing six championship games of excellent beach ultimate.
From the beginning to the end Beach Worlds was a memorable experience filled with spirited fun on the beach and top competition on the field. It's no coincidence that the field is the beach and the beach the field… fair-minded spirit and competitive fire were united at this tournament.
The result can't be a surprise: the United States defeated the Philippines 13-9 in the finals and brought home gold as predicted. The Philippines—primarily represented by the club team Boracay Dragons— are known worldwide as masterful beach specialists and repeated as silver medalists.
Switzerland, led by Paganello stars Lorenz Stauffer and Robin Brüderlin, stifled Italy to claim bronze in the third place game.
The USA-Philippines finals gave fans everything they wanted: spectacular layout grabs, waves of speedy defenders, well-executed offensive sets and two teams prepared to compete for gold.
In the end too many early unforced errors from the Filipino side and too much firepower from the Americans proved the difference.
Twice the Philippines got caught looking for the next pass and dropped easy hammers: Perhaps USA's changing defensive sets and junky zones disrupted the Filipino flow just enough.
On offense the Americans were able to send in lines featuring cutters with just as much foot speed as fleet Filipino defenders Panoy de los Santos and Jeffrey Rodriguez. Coupled with the steady handling and deep-look options from veterans Tyler Kinley, Adam Simon and Webster McBride and a healthy height advantage the American offense proved tough to contain.
Still the Philippines fought: Down three breaks 0-3 to start they tied it at 3s before USA separated again with three straight and the counterpunching began. A spectacular hammer layout goal from Rodriguez closed it to 9-7 but was followed by a score and layout D from American Teddy Browar-Jarus to up the lead to 11-7. A double happiness D and score from Hendrix Manning was matched by a step-back flick huck from Simon to make it 12-8. There was some parity here, even if the Philippines' electric fast-moving "Dragon style" offense of quick passes proved unmatched on the beach and the Americans' calm under pressure rarely wavered. The match finally drew to a close with a Kinley throw to speedy Asa Wilson.
For the USA the tournament ended with a healthy respect for the competition and a satisfying win over a worthy opponent.
It was also notable for the USA's 12-10 showcase loss to Italy that confirmed what was suspected beforehand: even sending a hand-picked All-Star team from a nation of 40,000 full-time ultimate players isn't enough to overcome a steady and determined opponent.
For the Philippines they had to be happy getting back to the finals in what was clearly a more difficult field of competition than WCBU2007—down a break late in their quarterfinal against an upstart and largely unheralded Canadian squad, for instance, the Philippines had to run off two straight to win on double-game point.
In their semifinal against Italy, however—which initially started as a physical call-fest interrupted by a spirit-circle time-out—they strung together five straight scores twice to win in a blow-out.
But WCBU2011 in some ways may be the end of an era for the Philippines and the Dragons. The Filipino team we saw was the same group from four years ago and age may steal away some of their stars for future tournaments. Only a handful of players on this team are in their 20s and if the Philippines wants to get back to the finals in 2015 they will have to start a youth rebuilding process soon.
The Italians looked strong all tournament in defeating the USA and the Philippines in crowd-pleasing Beach Arena showcase games before mysteriously battling nerves and a sense of fear before taking the field in their doomed semifinal against the Philippines. Still the Italians proved their style of play marked by an aggressively opportunistic offense and fearless defense was a solid and successful model.
And finally we have to remember Switzerland as a presence here and a team we can expect to see more of in the future. Their tight 12-10 loss to the USA in semifinals said as much about their talent and savvy as anything.
One final note: as mentioned in the preview, competition-wise, this tournament suffered from its proximity to the European Championships. Grass is still considered superior for most of Europe and players from EUC Open finalists Sweden and Great Britain were not in attendance. GB's best player, Si Weeks, fitted himself on the Mixed Masters team, for instance.
But that takes nothing away from the players that did come to compete and a tournament environment that produced absolutely awesome displays of competition, spirit, fun and entertainment for players and spectators alike.
BULA has made it clear that it wants the ethos of beach ultimate to be different than that of the grass field game and if WCB2011 was any indication they have succeeded.